The Premier League’s longest ever managerial hiatus will come to an end this month with the return of one of Europe’s most well-known coaches.
Claudio Ranieri, who managed Chelsea from 2001-2004, will return to England’s top flight as Leicester City manager, replacing Nigel Pearson for the 2015-16 season.
Ranieri’s stock has fallen dramatically in the intervening years, getting the boot from Inter Milan, Parma and, most recently, the Greece national team for an unfathomably bad start to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, losing twice against the Faroe Islands.
Having now joined the Foxes, he brings to an end an 11-year wait for more of his restless tactical fiddling and endearing but rudimentary grasp of the English language.
Say what you like about Mourinho, Ranieri was more loved by opposition fans everywhere.
Indeed, for all the perceived fickleness of Chelsea supporters, you would bet your house on him getting a warm reception on his return to Stamford Bridge, where he will take on the man who replaced him in 2004.
But what has happened to our Premier League clubs since the Tinkerman was last on our shores?
Well, for a start, he’ll need to be re-introduced to West Ham, as the Hammers spent 03/04 floundering against reams like Wallsall, Gillingham and Rotherham in the old Division One.
Having been relegated in 2003, the Irons sacked Glenn Roeder three games into the season, eventually replacing him with current Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew, who helped them to a fourth-place finish.
West Ham were eventually beaten to the play-off crown by a Neil Shipperly-inspired Palace.
The Irons had some talented players in that squad, with Don Hutchison, Michael Carrick and Nigel Reo-Coker patrolling the midfield.
However, once you realise the team was relying on Marlon Harewood for goals, it is easy to see where it all fell apart.
The last time Ranieri faced West Ham was in May 2003, when Paolo Di Canio scored the only goal in a shock victory for the Hammers at the Boleyn.
Despite the Irons’ early 2000s era being personified by the mercurial skills and hot-headedness of Di Canio, Ranieri’s last memory of him in south-east London will be a less formidable one.
The 2003/04 season saw the Italian star looking not particularly interested while playing for Charlton Athletic, such were the twilight years of his playing career.
But Ranieri will be wondering what’s happened to the Addicks.
Back in those days The Valley was one of the most feared grounds in the league, a fortress where warriors like Shaun Bartlett, Matt Holland and Scott Parker – who joined Chelsea during the season – would make opposition teams quake in their boots.
The Addicks finished seventh under Alan Curbishley that season – their best ever Premier League result.
Ranieri’s last visit to The Valley saw his charges get spanked 4-2 by Charlton, with Herman Hreidarsson, Matt Holland, Jonatan Johansson and Jason Euell getting on the scoresheet.
He’ll surely be glad to see the back of them.
Premier League in 2003-04
POS | CLUB
1 | Arsenal
2 | Chelsea
3 | Manchester United
4 | Liverpool
5 | Newcastle United
6 | Aston Villa
7 | Charlton Athletic
8 | Bolton Wanderers
9 | Fulham
10 | Birmingham City
11 | Middlesbrough
12 | Southampton
13 | Portsmouth
14 | Tottenham Hotspur
15 | Blackburn Rovers
16 | Manchester City
17 | Everton
18 | Leicester City
19 | Leeds United
20 | Wolverhampton Wanderers